Diocese of Allentown closing churches

June 2, 2008 4:33:24 PM PDT
Catholics attending dozens of churches around the Lehigh Valley will have to find new places to worship. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown is closing dozens of parishes.

Most Catholics who spoke with Action News in the Lehigh Valley say they understand why this decision was made, but it doesn't take away from the emotional impact.

The parish where John Kospiah has been a member since 1956, St. Joseph's, is among those marked for closure.

"The old people, they grew up there, their parents were married there, the kids were baptized, they had the picnics; it hurts," Kospiah said.

When the restructuring is complete a total of 47 parishes will be lost through consolidation and merger bringing the total number from 151 churches to 104.

Officials from the Allentown Diocese say the primary reason is simply a lack of priests.

"We have currently 151 parishes in the Diocese of Allentown, and the projection is by this time next year we'll have 115 priests available for parish ministries," Matt Kerr the Diocesan spokesperson.

The Diocese of Allentown covers a five county area.

The announced closures and consolidations affect parishes in Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, and Schuylkill Counties.

An announcement regarding Catholic churches in Berks County is expected later this year.

Many of those we spoke to here say they're hoping for a positive outcome after the plan is put into place.

"I think we'll strengthen some churches with new parishioners coming in, new blood, maybe some new ideas, and let's hope everybody accepts it, just wants to be Catholic, and finds a new church home, " Jim Krupka of Allentown said.

Diocesan officials say they're still not sure what to do with all those vacant church buildings. Some will be sold off and others like Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Allentown will remain open as soup kitchens.

Regardless, the restructuring officially goes into effect July 15th.